Churches united against hatred


To the Editor:

The following statement was developed last December by the Island Clergy Association in response to specific incidents that had taken place earlier last year. As a response to and perhaps a continuation of Dr. Collier’s letter of Jan. 14, we, the undersigned, wish to state:

We issue the following statement as leaders in the Martha’s Vineyard faith community in response to the recent rise in incidences of hateful words and acts against our neighbors, including people of color, immigrants, Jews and the LGBTQ community. We speak in response to the recent desecration of the Israeli flag at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation in Falmouth and in response to the anti-gay hate stickers that have been placed on several Island houses of worship that fly the rainbow flag.

We state unequivocally that we and our various religious traditions are united against hatred and discrimination, and that we stand together in respecting the dignity of every human being.

We make this statement in our current climate of rancor and divisiveness that many of us have not seen since the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. We are deeply concerned by the erosion of civility and the current trend that relegates those who disagree to a demonized other, one whose voice and opinions are not worth listening to.

We are as concerned and more by the motivations and actions of those who have taken their ideology to the next step of doing harm to others through their speech or actions. We acknowledge that people, often religiously or ideologically motivated, may disagree and hold differing views concerning the beliefs and actions of others.

We contend that all people have the right to appropriately express their opinions, both privately and publicly, if done so respectfully, in appropriate contexts, and without stipulating acquiescence or agreement or explicitly provoking malicious and abusive speech or violence.

Furthermore, we recognize that to use hateful speech or commit an act that denigrates another human being, or worse, in addition to the damage inflicted on that individual or group, does harm to those who take such action.

As human beings and as people who live on this Island, we know that we have more in common than divides us. Together we state our own and our faiths’ enduring core principle that each human being is created in the image of the Divine, is worthy of respect, and has inherent dignity.


The Rev. Stephen Harding, rector, Grace Church, Vineyard Haven
The Rev. Cathlin Baker, minister, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury
The Rev. Bill Clark, minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard
Rabbi Lori Shaller, Island Clergy Association
Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center
The Rev. Charlotte Wright, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Armen Hanjian, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Victoria Hanjian
The Rev. Vincent G. (“Chip”) Seadale, rector, St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Edgartown
The Rev. Mary Beth Daniels, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Ernest Belisle, minister, Chilmark Community Church
The Rev. Robert Barnett, pastor, Faith Community Church
The Rev. David Christensen, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Sharon Eckhardt, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Philip Dietterich, Island Clergy Association
Clark Hanjian, Buddhist chaplain, Island Insight Meditation Community
The Rev. Dr. Leo D. Christian, First Baptist Church Vineyard Haven and Community Baptist Church of Gay Head
The Rev. Matthew B. Splittgerber, Vineyard Assembly of God
The Rev. Richard S. DenUyl Jr., Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Michael Nagle, Good Shepherd Parish, Martha’s Vineyard
The Rev. Karl G. Buder, Good Shepherd Parish, Martha’s Vineyard
Rabbi Brian Walt, Island Clergy Association
The Rev. Jill De La Hunt, Island Insight Meditation Community
The Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo, minister, United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard


  1. “Furthermore, we recognize that to use hateful speech or commit an act that denigrates another human being, or worse, in addition to the damage inflicted on that individual or group, does harm to those who take such action… We state unequivocally that we and our various religious traditions are united against hatred and discrimination, and that we stand together in respecting the dignity of every human being.”

    So, how is demoralizing other human beings (with nice words) respecting their dignity?

    From the Assembly of God description of itself:
    “It should be noted at the outset that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, or changes in sexual identity found anywhere in Scripture. Male and female genders are carefully defined and unconfused. The consistent ideal for sexual experience in the Bible is chastity4 for those outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage and fidelity5 for those inside such a marriage. There is also abundant evidence that homosexual behavior, along with illicit heterosexual behavior, is immoral and comes under the judgment of God.”

    Empty, meaningless words are written in this letter. Religious discrimination against LGBT rights to marry, and all homophobia, must be condemned.

  2. Well as Urban the second said it, maybe, ‘Deus Vult’! Look out DonDon I did not see the Pastafarians represented, you might want to get your colander out there could be a crusade to wipe out spaghettios!!!!

    • As a minister, I am somewhat disappointed that I was not consulted about this letter. But I take no offense at the slight. I am certain it was unintentional, especially in light of the fact this is about being inclusive. So with or without their blessing , I choose to add my name to the list :
      The Rev. Donald Keller, Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  3. Fangs–Thanks for noting the glaring omission of any representative of my faith in this letter. Pastafarians are, after all, truly concerned with all the issues mentioned. And I can honestly say, I have never heard a Pastafarian utter anything hateful about people of color, immigrants, Jews and the LGBTQ community. Interestingly enough, there seem to be quite a few people who identify as christian that seem to have disrespect and indeed, some degree of hatred towards those groups .
    Spaghettios , huh ? I’m not certain that stuff can really be classified as pasta.

  4. Fang– I stand corrected by my daughter about the classification of spaghettios.
    she says “spaghettiOs only count as pasta if you’re under 5”
    She should know, as she has 2 young children. So, technically , it is pasta for a certain group of people.
    Also note the spelling — who knew you could put a capital letter at the end of a word ?
    And, apparently, spaghettiOs are a favorite topping on home made pizza !
    Ramen !

    • Hey don can i ask you to elaberate on homosexuality in an evolutionary framework? How does it fit in? Just curious.

      • Combats overpopulation without birth control, abortion, or government stepping in to limit families to 1or 2 children, and married same sex couples can adopt to provide loving, stable homes for orphans and children whose birth parents can’t raise them. Win-win all around. Can’t imagine why you didn’t ask me.

      • Oh and Miles, can you elaborate on the purpose of people living past 50, evolution-wise? Well, to put it another way, evolutionarily, what good are women after 40?

      • As with so many things when it comes to evolution, the reasons and benefits of any particular trait are hard to quantify.The true strength is in the variety of results when new members of the species are created.Why do people have red hair?Who knows?

  5. Sigh….here comes a futile dose of common sense. Pray for me…. We have an irony here in which someone who is anonymously quoting religious views held by not a not- insignificant portion of the American population is consequently having the issue framed as “Hate Speech.” If you step back, you see that we have progressive and conservative views within organized religion, just as we do within politics and society. Does anyone have the clarity and backbone to say “Much of the institutional religion practiced in large quarters of the USA is considered homophobic and politically incorrect by modern progressive standards. Strict biblical interpretation is not politically progressive”? To condemn hate speech that comes straight out of organized religious doctrine without condemning the religion directly is absurd and illogical.

    • Good points, Wesley, and yes, religion is political. A nice Jewish boy once said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. I agree. Much of organized religious law, not opinion, is not only homophobic, it is also misogynistic, and some churches and their leaders are anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. Strict bilblical interpretations and dogma are for the brainwashed, in my opinion, and these brainwashed people show all the symptoms of cult adherence and addiction. I have no problem condemning every signer of this letter for their individual refusal to stand up and say out loud the exact discrimination they supposedly decry: religious discrimination against our LGBTQ community. Otherwise, if they’re not against this discrimination, they are for it. One church’s pastor wrote a letter to this newspaper several weeks ago condoning his church’s homophobic practices toward any LGBTQ members who might belong to that church.

      • Dearest Jackie- I hope I’m not the first person to break it to you that Islam and Judaism can be just as narrow-minded and intolerant. Nobody is pure here. It seems to be the nature of organized religion, at least in its conservative manifestation, to be at odds with the secular progressive philosophy in the United States. Clearly the island clergy is more on the progressive side, based on the signatories to this letter.

        • Darling Wesley- I was agreeing with you: “Much of organized religious law, not opinion, is not only homophobic, it is also misogynistic, and some churches and their leaders are anti-Semitic and Islamophobic.”

  6. Myles– let us just be clear as to what the topic is here.
    A group of well meaning people who harbor little if any hate towards any of the classes of people they mention , have found it in the hearts and their consciouse’s to address a notable rise in attitudes and actions of people who do in fact harbor hate for people they do not know.
    Their letter is about confronting hatred and discrimination.
    But you ask about evolution. First, let me address the fact that according to a gallop poll from 2014 , about 70 % of people who attend church on at least a weekly basis do not believe in evolution, and believe that god created people in their present form, and, she did it less than 10,000 years ago.
    This is not an isolated result, and those beliefs have changed little over decades of research.
    These are in fact the same people who site their bible as reason to discriminate against the gay community.
    Ironically, as Jackie pointed out, it is in fact embedded in the teachings of one of the most devout evangelical organizations in America.
    But for the 58 % of all Americans who actually believe in evolution, I will attempt to elaborate on my thoughts .
    First, I think I can reasonably conclude that you are addressing the seemingly non reproductive status of many homosexual couples. In today’s society, with our technology, many couples do in fact have children, both biologically and through adoption, so I would say they are evolutionarily equal.
    Historically, most chistian sects have forbidden their clergy from reproducing. In fact they take a vow of celibacy, are not permitted to marry, and thereby forbidden to have children. This has been going on for centuries with no discernible evolutionary consequence.
    Some, such as a frequent commenter here, who Identifies strongly as christian, has railed against “bathroom laws” gay marriage laws, religious “freedom” laws and many other issues dealing with the LGBTQ community takes a rather dim view of that policy.
    On August 17 2018, in an e mail to me, he wrote “because the Catholic Church wants celibate priests that it became a magnet for homosexuals and those same homosexuals were predators on children. Or are you going to continue the conceit that there is no relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.” ?
    Just for the record, I actually am going to continue that “conceit” .
    The letter posted here is about attitudes and beliefs like that.
    Evolutionarily speaking, being LGBTQ means nothing.

  7. Once again the usual suspects tell us there is no difference between disagreement and discrimination but never tell us why. They cant segregate views and opinions; they cant compartmentalize differing ideology. They like to lump things because it doesn’t demand much of them in intellectual vigor. Instead they shame and vilify because it is easy. Their world view is the only legitimate one and they wont tolerate competing claims.

    • Andrew, once again, you don’t understand that the church’s “disagreeement” over sexuality is discriminatory. In deciphering your word salad, it’s clear you have it backwards. You’re lumping and it’s lazy. The specific church here claims its laws against homosexuality are based on the bible, which is fiction, not fact. “It should be noted at the outset that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, or changes in sexual identity found anywhere in Scripture. Male and female genders are carefully defined and unconfused.” This is not opinion/views. It is dogma. The rules of the church are homophobic. Sorry if reality upsets you, but rules and laws of religions are not opinion. People are brainwashed into thinking the bible is true– Most people understand it is a made-up bunch of stuff written my humans. It is shameful to call oneself Christian and to discriminate against people for how they were born, “created”, if you will. A “religious” organization villifies itself by this blatant failure to accept fellow human beings. Is the idea of specific sin an opinion in this particulary church? What happens to members of that church who want to marry but happen to be gay? They can’t get married in the church. That’s their rule–not an opinon, not a view, but a reality. And it’s discriminatory. I have no idea what “compartmentalizing differing ideologies” even means, and neither do you. It sounds like something someone brainwashed into a cult would say.

  8. Andrew– I mentioned that I know one alleged christian who thinks that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.Obviously, the writer of that e mail believes that.
    Where in my comment do I even remotely suggest that the obviously bigoted person I was referencing is guilty of “discrimination” ? When have I EVER told anyone “there is no difference between disagreement and discrimination” I ask again that you quit lying about what I say.
    He has his ideology, his opinions, and his beliefs. I have never said he discriminates against anyone. I know the difference between disagreement and discrimination.
    We disagree on many things. I think transgender people should be allowed into the bathroom of their identity. You think they should not be allowed to. That’s a disagreement.
    When a law gets passed that say’s they can’t , that is a discriminatory law. That is discrimination.
    If you lived in the south in the 60’s you could have the opinion that people of color are inferior and should be segregated from “white” people and should not be allowed to eat in the same restaurants, etc. That is an opinion– people who thought people of color were “created equally” disagreed with that and held a different opinion. Am I being clear here ?
    Discrimination occurs when people take action on their beliefs and or opinions and refuse some goods or services or access to whatever based on an attribute:Be it color, religious belief, ethnicity, sexual identity, etc.
    I know the difference,do you ?
    Again, Andrew, I ask that you do not accuse people of things they are not guilty of.

  9. dondondon. Who gets to decide what is and is not a discriminatory law? Boys running races against girls in high schools and winning due to their size and strength defies common sense yet is a law somewhere. You say its discriminatory others do not. I am glad you see there is a difference between discrimination and disagreement. Jackie does not. However you have relentlessly called me a racist and a bigot for my disagreement so your words dont ring true. Jackie claims to know scripture and says there is no admonition about homosexuality in scripture and of course she is dead wrong. Again you are mixing several things. Some characteristics are benign and some traits are actions and they deserve different treatment. Discrimination in the south due to race and color is wrong and was finally ended as was slavery and perhaps one day abortion. You think disagreement is bigoted regardless of whether the person doesnt discriminate. Am i a bigot if I disagree with Polygamy or Adultery? No because you probably disagree with those. So you are selective with your tolerance. Things that you dont care about is easy to be tolerant about. Finally for you to suggest that celibate priests who molest young boys are heterosexuals only is dumb. Next you will tell us that the numerous cases documented in the Boy Scouts causing bankruptcy are all heterosexual molestations–man on boy and no homosexuality is involved. Would I be a bigot if I disagreed with a prodigious adulterer? Jackie needs to understand the Free Exercise Clause, the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of Association of the First amendment, or Obergefell versus Hodges in the Supreme Court in order to understand what churches can and cannot do or think and the courts have ruled it is not discriminatory. I can start a club Jackie whose members are left handed vegans and choose not to permit right handed meat eaters. Any church I have ever attended welcomes anyone otherwise how could we tell them about Jesus.

    • Andrew, in a post you’ve addressed to Don, you make clear that you indeed have a very active “Club Jackie” already existing inside your head. “Jackie claims to know…Jackie needs to understand…I can start a club Jackie”. Here’s the thing, Andrew, nothing you say about me is true, vaild or appropriate, except inside your imaginary little club that only exists inside your head.

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